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Responsible Tourism & Charitable Work in the Taroudant Region
Responsible tourism aims to promote sustainable development by encouraging individuals, businesses and organizations to take responsibility for their effect of their actions on the environment, local people and the economy. Jane Bayley, our director, has been a pioneer in Responsible Tourism in Morocco since the early 1990’s when she founded the company and the guest house in Taroudant, began to be involved in environmental research and education in Morocco involving her undergraduate students (from the University of Trinity St Davids in Wales) who were studying sustainable development on the ground in Morocco; this led to the establishment of our “Real Morocco” programme of ethical holiday experiences in Taroudant, which started in 1996.
We are recognized by the Moroccan Tourist Board for our work in this field: we were the sole Tour Operator invited to give a presentation at the launch of their Responsible Tourism Initiative in London in April 2007. In 2009, we received the Trophy for Responsible Tourism (International Category, Economic & Social Development theme) for our work in fundraising and supporting community projects in High Atlas Villages near Taroudant and in 2014 we were selected as one of the Top 10 Eco-stays in the World by Lonely Planet. In 2023 we were voted Best Holistic Ecolodge in Morocco by Resorts & Retreats Awards.
The King of Morocco is committed to responsible tourism; in fact he received a World Peace award in 2009 for his strong commitment to sustainable development. The experiences we offer aim to maximise benefit to you, the local people and their culture and the environment by:
- Minimising negative environmental, social and cultural impacts with a special emphasis on conserving natural resources.
- Making positive contributions to the conservation of natural and cultural heritage and to the maintenance of their diversity.
- We provide pre-visit information to clients, ensuring that they are well briefed to respect Moroccan etiquette; we offer opportunities to learn key words in the local language, to support sustainable local business initiatives, to conserve wildlife and resources.
- We employ local people and treat them well (testimony being that the staff has barely changed since 1997 and mostly due to additional staff), having helped many of our collaborators develop their skills, including language, to provide a friendly and professional service to our clients.
- Providing more enjoyable experiences for you through meaningful connections with local people and a greater understanding of local, cultural and environmental issues.
- Generating greater economic benefits for local people by actively supporting the local economy and society through local purchasing and by supporting the development of new businesses, whilst involving local people in decisions and by encouraging our clients to support the local economy by buying local crafts & agricultural products direct from producers.
FAIR DISTRIBUTION OF RESOURCES
Our projects aim to involve a wide range of age groups, both sexes and the major livelihoods in the village. Some examples follow. The major occupations in the villages we visit in the High Atlas are production of olive oil, argan oil; pottery and mixed farming.
Women are heavily involved in farming and childrearing as well as preparing all meals using local products; we have helped them as follows: soap making facilities are run by the women of one family, using raw materials produced in the community; clients observe and sample bread-making and a traditional lunch in private homes (different homes are opened to visitors during visits to ensure an equitable distribution of income) and financial support of a women’s literacy project.
Men The potters demonstrate their skills to visitors and direct sales to visitors are assisted by us advising the potters on the production of products which are most saleable. Our staff gave language lessons to US Peace Corps Volunteers who assisted the potters by helping them with marketing, quality control and new technology.
Children are supported by a large number of our projects. All donations are made to parents or the school teacher and not directly to children to avoid the promotion of begging.
EXAMPLES OF OUR SUPPORT TO THE LOCAL COMMUNITY
We support and/or have initiated a number of projects in the region including:
1) Disadvantaged people and communities
We focus on helping poorer communities and the disadvantaged such as illiterate village women who benefit from our activities, for example by paying them well to serve traditional meals in their village homes and by supporting literacy schemes, the blind and orphans.
- The School for the Blind We and our clients have made a number of donations since 2006 through our appeals including a white stick and sunglasses for every one of the 73 children, audible balls, musical instruments, braille tablets and training to assist the children in earning a living making various handicrafts. We also like to support musical & theatrical performances for which we make donations.
- The Orphanage We and our clients have helped in a number of ways – gifts including money, nappies (always in short supply), clothes, a play pen, toys and visits to play with and look after the children.
- The Moroccan Children’s Trust does much good work supporting street-connected children in the town (eg helping with homework; building a sports hall) as well as having been very influential in developing new policies nationally eg related to fostering.
- Village schools We have donated various pieces of furniture, writing materials, computer equipment and a VCR to village schools; on occasion gifts have been made in return for litter clean ups for educational purposes.
- Donation of children’s clothes and shoes We regularly donate to parents of children in the poorer villages and more remote villages not generally visited by tourists.
2) Endangered Species Conservation and Animal Welfare
We provide information on wildlife protected by CITES, endangered ecosystems and species and projects aimed at conserving these, which the clients can support, and about tourist souvenirs made from wild species which should not be purchased.
- The Argan Oil Women’s Cooperatives We encourage clients to buy this highly therapeutic oil from organic producers whose woodlands and economic activities are protected by the Argan Forest Biosphere Reserve (inaugaurated by UNESCO here in the early 1990s)
- Reintroduction of the Saharan Yellow Bee We have been involved in this project to reinstate this rare endemic bee to beekeepers in the region south of the Atlas range since 2010. We have helped to fund a training course for 63 beekeepers in Feb 2011; introduction to the Souss valley under supervision of an expert etc.
- Tortoise Conservation Having first visited Morocco as a researcher with a concern for the impact of tourism and agricultural change on wildlife, Jane has been involved with raising awareness in a variety of settings including amongst tourists, universities, school and academic publications since the early 1990s.
- The Bald Ibis project Through her involvement with wildlife conservation, Jane & a team of her colleagues & students assisted with research on the conservation of this critically endangered bird which is only found breeding in the wild in 2 National Parks on the Atlantic coast.
- SPANA Supports working animals of the world with compassion. They have veterinary centres in various parts of Morocco. When ordering horse-drawn carriages for our guests, we ensure that we only use the drivers who treat their animals well. SPANA don’t operate in this town.
- The Jareer Mule & Donkey Sanctuary is committed to not only care for the injured and malnourished working equine but ensure the new generations are cared for throughout their life, to the benefit of not only the animal but the whole community.
3) Support of Community Enterprise and Research
We support organisations such as GTZ and the Peace Corps who take a participatory approach with local communities. We teach language to Peace Corps workers who help local businesses & we involve ourselves or initiate other projects whenever we can.
Language: We support the work of the Peace Corps and other charitable organisations working locally: our staff teach Arabic and Berber to their personnel in Taroudant. Latifa our manageress has worked with (now eminent) American anthropologists (David Crawford & Katherine Hoffman) studying Berber communities since the 1990s – some of their writings are available on request. Language lessons are also available to our own clients.
The Soap Making project: We initiated this project in 2006; we involved consultants from Wales who provided training in safety, production processes and marketing, whilst the guest house staff sourced raw materials which are not available to the makers (due to limitations of literacy or availability locally).After initial training or advice, the local people are empowered to run the activity with support from our guest house staff or our advisers abroad.
The Bee Project: Initiated in 2010 followed by the Busy Bee Centre in 2012 (where you can by various lovely local bee products including lip balm and the local equivalents of Manuka honey and beeswax wraps) and the Bee Permaculture Orchard in 2013 culminating in 2019 with Youssef Dounge whose training we had assisted successfully breeding queens (with “pure” DNA) of the critically endangered Yellow Saharan Bee which were re-introduced into the oases on the N edge of the Sahara with government support.
The Embroidery Project: In 2014 we started to support women in a variety of settings producing traditional and market-driven products including braid, passport holders, handbags and traditional cloths. Our main supplier is Bouchra, the wife of our driver, Rachid. She is a highly skilled embroiderer.
HOW YOU CAN HELP
- the purchase of the above locally made goods in direct from producers eg argan oil, olive oil, mats, pottery, embroidery, honey, lip balm & soap. The sustainable nature of the production methods is a result of the ingredients and production methods used.
- the purchase of items direct from producers at the new government-sponsored Craft Centre on the outskirts of Taroudant within walking distance of the ecolodge. This opened in 2020. The units are rent-free and the craftsmen can maximize their profits because you buy direct. Their little units act as both a shop and a workshop.
- the purchase of items from our small shop in the reception area – buying cards or posters (by famous landscape artist Alan Cotton or by Robert O’ Keefe) or an electronic cookery book produced by our chefs for which a donation is made towards your chosen community project(s).
- donating clothes, medical supplies or spectacles. We take clothes to the orphanage, the street children project and to remote villages in the mountains. If we have a surplus, we make donations of clothes and medical supplies via the Rotary Club Taroudant who have links with local doctors, opticians and different communities to us.
- making a monetary donation to any of the above projects. 100% will go to the cause. We do not make any admin charges for our charitable work. You may either pay from the UK (we can then transfer the money for you to your chosen cause).
NB Donations are not normally made directly to children because this encourages begging. Donations are instead made to parents or the school teacher.
- We pay people in the local community for services provided for our clients eg demonstrations, music, spa treatments and henna tattoos.